Homemade Crème Fraîche is almost fool proof to make at home with 2 ingredients.
My main driver in making homemade crème fraîche is that it is hit and miss if my regular grocery stores have it in stock. And actually... it is mostly miss....
And if you do find it - it usually comes with a hefty price tag. You can make it at home for a fraction of the price of store bought.
A lot of French recipes call for crème fraîche and it adds a certain richness that is often key to the recipe. So not being sure of being able to buy it - I had to find a way to be able to make my own reliably.
What exactly is crème fraîche you ask? It is like sour cream only higher in fat by definition and therefore richer and creamier. It will not curdle when used in hot soups or casseroles. It has a light fresh tang that is more pleasant than the tang of yogurt.
Check out this Tartiflette recipe that features crème fraîche in the sauce.
Like sour cream - it is cream with an acid agent that will denature the cream to separate the whey and thicken the liquid. Really the only difference is the higher fat content.
What Do You Use Crème Fraîche For?
The easy answer is anywhere you want a rich sour cream! But it can be fancier than that too!
You can top fresh fruit with it. You may want whisk in a bit of sugar or honey if your tastes run to the sweet rather than tangy.
Casseroles with a cream sauce often use crème fraîche since, as mentioned above, it doesn't curdle.
A dollop on smoked salmon canapés would be classic. As a side for latkes or potato pancakes would be another classic.
Need to Know
The first thing you need to know is that none of the products you use here can be Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurized. You know the dairy in cartons that don't need to be refrigerated until opened. Read the cartons - some in the dairy case can be UHT. The reason is that the UHT pastuerization kills off so much of the living culture in the dairy products there is not enough left to feed and ferment.
The basis is that the bacterial culture in the acidifier denatures and ferments the cream, thickening it and producing a slightly sour and tangy flavour.
In my experimentations I absolutely fell in love with crème fraîche made using Kefir as the thickening agent. It makes the tangiest version - bright with slightly sour but rich notes. I know it sounds like an oxymoron but you have to try it.
Crème fraîche typically has a less sour profile than sour cream so if you are going for the light tasting profile use lemon juice instead of kefir.
Buttermilk is the classic acidifier and produces the mildest flavour but I have not had any success with using Buttermilk as a thickening/denaturing agent. You need cultured buttermilk which is, although not stated on the carton, apparently the average buttermilk we buy in our dairy section. I had absolutely no luck using buttermilk even after 48 hours. I suspect somehow the buttermilk was so processed there wasn't enough live culture left to ferment the cream ( I don't know why mine didn't work and others apparently have great success with it.)
You can also make it with yogurt or sour cream. BUT the yogurt and sour cream MUST has live bacteria culture.
Kefir is pretty commonly available and I like it best so I am just going to go with the Kefir version.
I personally am sold on the kefir approach and if I want it less savoury, say to top fruit I add a bit of sugar.
Homemade Crème Fraîche
- 1 cup 35 % cream See Note 1
- 1-2 Tbsps kefir See Note 2 for substitutes
- Mix cream and kefir in a glass container and cover with cheescloth or a tea towel. Allow to stand at room temperature 24-72 hours until desired thickness is achieved. (You can also put in an oven with just the light on to create a 'warm' atmosphere. It will thicken faster like this.)
- Drain off separated liquid if any. Reserve liquid to use like buttermilk if desired.
- Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate. Serve chilled and refrigerate any left over.
- Will keep in the fridge about 1 week.